Ep03: Sorry | Pháinn-sè 歹勢

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Ep03: Sorry | Pháinn-sè 歹勢

In this episode, we’ve learned how to say sorry in Taiwanese.

(These show notes use tables and rich formatting. Please visit the episode webpage for an optimal viewing experience.)

Try to remember the melody (“tones”) of these phrases as well because Taiwanese is a tonal language! You can review by listening to our podcast episode, or checking out our workbook audio.




1) Sorry!
2) Excuse me!

(literally: bad-appearance)

Tsin pháinn-sè.

I’m so sorry.



(literally: lost-manners)

Tsin sit-lé.

I’m so sorry.

Bô iàu-kín!

It’s okay. / It doesn’t matter.

no, not having


important, urgent

--lah, bô iàu-kín!

No, don’t worry, it’s okay!

*Syllables that require tone changes have been greyed out.


Pháinn-” (literally “bad-appearance”) is used when you feel bad, ashamed or embarrassed about what you’ve done. You can use it

  1. to apologize to someone, like “I’m sorry” in English;
  2. to say you feel embarrassed or too shy to do something (e.g. “Guá ē pháinn-”, I feel embarrassed);
  3. to interrupt and get the attention of someone, just like “excuse me”.

Note that unlike “I’m sorry” in English, “pháinn-” can NOT be used to express sympathy when someone tells you a bad news.


When used as an apologetic expression, “pháinn-” and “sit-” are often used interchangeably. In this episode, we did mention some subtle differences that may exist:

Pháinn-” is more like you feel bad or guilty about something you did, and it probably has a more personal touch when you say it.

Sit-” may sound slightly more formal, respectful or serious, and it’s like stating what you did was rude or wrong, or acknowledging that you’ve made a mistake in a professional sense.


The Third Tone, or Tone 3, is a mid falling tone. It means it starts in the middle part of your voice range and drops down to the lower part, usually to the point where your voice gets a little creaky.

It sounds like sighing, “ugh”, or “uh”, if someone punches you in the gut and you get the wind knocked out of you. Tone 3 is actually the lowest and darkest tone in Taiwanese.

Here are some phrases we’ve learned that ends with a Tone 3:

Pháinn-” (sorry)

Bián kheh-khì” (you’re welcome), khì

We encourage you to relisten to this episode and pay special attention to the final syllables, “”and “khì”. You can also check out our workbook for some exercises on Tone 3.

If you want to know what tones the other syllables have changed to, we’ve marked them for you in our downloadable workbook. You'll also find additional vocabulary with characters, pronunciation notes, grammar explanations, culture tips, and fun exercises to help your practice. Go check it out!

Music Credit: TeknoAXE

Taiwanese "sorry" gesture


4 replies on “ Ep03: Sorry | Pháinn-sè 歹勢 ”
  1. So growing up I always heard “Bô iàu-kín” as “Bwah-kín” – is that just a shortened form or regional, or was it just said super quickly so the phrase sounded condensed? Thanks! BTW – great podcast, I’m playing it for my kid (and it’s helping my own review)

    1. Hi Ed!

      “Bua̋-kín” is actually the contracted form of “Bô iàu-kín”. The little squiggly mark over the “a” means it has a special mid rising tone that sometimes comes about from the tones of the two syllables merging. There are regional differences for this phrase, too. Instead of “bô” you might also hear “bē” or “buē” in its place. Since we can’t get to everything in the podcast, we do try to include more detailed explanations like these in the workbook. If you find it interesting, please check it out!

      Thanks for your message! Sorry for the delayed response (it’s been a bit hectic the last few days–but, a good hectic ). We’re so happy to hear you’re enjoying our podcast, and that you’ve been sharing Taiwanese with your kid–this is so important to keep the language alive!

    2. I’ve always heard “Bua̋-kín” too! I also only just realized that “Guá” technically starts with a “g” sound – I always heard it as “Wa”. It’s awesome to review and re-learn the language this way!

      1. Hi Caroline!
        We’re so glad to hear that our podcast is making it fun to review, and that it’s even helping you pick up a few new things you didn’t already know! You’re not alone in hearing “guá 我” as if it were “wa”. In fact, this also happens with a few other sometimes hard-to-hear sounds like words beginning with “ng-”. So, “ngiú 扭” which means “to twist, tug at, or sprain” often gets heard as “giú”. This also happens at the end of syllables. For example, the “-m” in “im-ga̍k 音樂” which means “music” often gets heard as “in-ga̍k”. Now that more people are learning to use a Romanization system to write Taiwanese, these little discoveries about their own pronunciation are happening all the time!

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